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THANKSGIVING: FACT OR FICTION

This article is provided courtesy of History.com


The reason that we have so many myths associated with Thanksgiving is that it is an invented tradition. It
doesnt originate in any one event. It is based on the New England puritan Thanksgiving, which is a religious
Thanksgiving, and the traditional harvest celebrations of England and New England and maybe other ideas like
commemorating the pilgrims. All of these have been gathered together and transformed into something
different from the original parts.James W. Baker, Senior Historian at Plimoth Plantation

1. FACT OR FICTION: THANKSGIVING IS HELD ON THE FINAL THURSDAY OF NOVEMBER EACH YEAR.
Fiction. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as a national day of
thanksgiving. However, in 1939, after a request from the National Retail Dry Goods Association, President
Franklin Roosevelt decreed that the holiday should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the
month(and never the occasional fifth, as occurred in 1939) in order to extend the holiday shopping season by
a week. The decision sparked great controversy, and was still unresolved two years later, when the House of
Representatives passed a resolution making the last Thursday in November a legal national holiday. The
Senate amended the resolution, setting the date as the fourth Thursday, and the House eventually agreed.
DID YOU KNOW?
In 2009, President Obama pardoned a turkey named Courage.
2. FACT OR FICTION: ONE OF AMERICAS FOUNDING FATHERS THOUGHT THE TURKEY SHOULD BE THE
NATIONAL BIRD OF THE UNITED STATES.
Fact. In a letter to his daughter sent in 1784, Benjamin Franklin suggested that the wild turkey would be a
more appropriate national symbol for the newly independent United States than the bald eagle (which had
earlier been chosen by the Continental Congress). He argued that the turkey was a much more respectable
Bird, a true original Native of America, and though a little vain and silly, a Bird of Courage.
3. FACT OR FICTION: IN 1863, ABRAHAM LINCOLN BECAME THE FIRST AMERICAN PRESIDENT TO PROCLAIM
A NATIONAL DAY OF THANKSGIVING.

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Article: Copyright 2010 History.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Fiction. George Washington, John Adams and James Madison all issued proclamations urging Americans to
observe days of thanksgiving, both for general good fortune and for particularly momentous events (the
adoption of the U.S. Constitution, in Washingtons case; the end of the War of 1812, in Madisons).
4. FACT OR FICTION: MACYS WAS THE FIRST AMERICAN DEPARTMENT STORE TO SPONSOR A PARADE IN
CELEBRATION OF THANKSGIVING.
Fiction. The Philadelphia department store Gimbels had sponsored a parade in 1920, but the Macys parade,
launched four years later, soon became a Thanksgiving tradition and the standard kickoff to the holiday
shopping season. The parade became ever more well-known after it featured prominently in the hit film
Miracle on 34th Street (1947), which shows actual footage of the 1946 parade. In addition to its famous giant
balloons and floats, the Macys parade features live music and other performances, including by the Radio City
Music Hall Rockettes and cast members of well-known Broadway shows.
5. FACT OR FICTION: TURKEYS ARE SLOW-MOVING BIRDS THAT LACK THE ABILITY TO FLY.
Fiction (kind of). Domesticated turkeys (the type eaten on Thanksgiving) cannot fly, and their pace is limited
to a slow walk. Female domestic turkeys, which are typically smaller and lighter than males, can move
somewhat faster. Wild turkeys, on the other hand, are much smaller and more agile. They can reach speeds of
up to 20-25 miles per hour on the ground and fly for short distances at speeds approaching 55 miles per hour.
They also have better eyesight and hearing than their domestic counterparts.
6. FACT OR FICTION: NATIVE AMERICANS USED CRANBERRIES, NOW A STAPLE OF MANY THANKSGIVING
DINNERS, FOR COOKING AS WELL AS MEDICINAL PURPOSES.
Fact. According to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, one of the countrys oldest farmers
organizations, Native Americans used cranberries in a variety of foods, including pemmican (a nourishing,
high-protein combination of crushed berries, dried deer meat and melted fat). They also used it as a medicine
to treat arrow punctures and other wounds and as a dye for fabric. The Pilgrims adopted these uses for the
fruit and gave it a namecraneberrybecause its drooping pink blossoms in the spring reminded them of a
crane.
7. FACT OR FICTION: THE MOVEMENT OF THE TURKEY INSPIRED A BALLROOM DANCE.
Fact. The turkey trot, modeled on that birds characteristic short, jerky steps, was one of a number of popular
dance styles that emerged during the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States. The two-step, a

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Article: Copyright 2010 History.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

simple dance that required little to no instruction, was quickly followed by such dances as the one-step, the
turkey trot, the fox trot and the bunny hug, which could all be performed to the ragtime and jazz music
popular at the time. The popularity of such dances spread like wildfire, helped along by the teachings and
performances of exhibition dancers like the famous husband-and-wife team Vernon and Irene Castle.
8. FACT OR FICTION: ON THANKSGIVING DAY IN 2007, TWO TURKEYS EARNED A TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD.
Fact. On November 20, 2007, President George W. Bush granted a pardon to two turkeys, named May and
Flower, at the 60th annual National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, held in the Rose Garden at the White
House. The two turkeys were flown to Orlando, Florida, where they served as honorary grand marshals for the
Disney World Thanksgiving Parade. The current tradition of presidential turkey pardons began in 1947,
under Harry Truman, but the practice is said to have informally begun with Abraham Lincoln, who granted a
pardon to his son Tads pet turkey.
9. FACT OR FICTION: TURKEY CONTAINS AN AMINO ACID THAT MAKES YOU SLEEPY.
Fact. Turkey does contain the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is a natural sedative, but so do a lot of
other foods, including chicken, beef, pork, beans and cheese. Though many people believe turkeys
tryptophan content is what makes many people feel sleepy after a big Thanksgiving meal, it is more likely the
combination of fats and carbohydrates most people eat with the turkey, as well as the large amount of food
(not to mention alcohol, in some cases) consumed, that makes most people feel like following their meal up
with a nap.
10. FACT OR FICTION: THE TRADITION OF PLAYING OR WATCHING FOOTBALL ON THANKSGIVING STARTED
WITH THE FIRST NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE GAME ON THE HOLIDAY IN 1934.
Fiction. The American tradition of college football on Thanksgiving is pretty much as old as the sport itself. The
newly formed American Intercollegiate Football Association held its first championship game on Thanksgiving
Day in 1876. At the time, the sport resembled something between rugby and what we think of as football
today. By the 1890s, more than 5,000 club, college and high school football games were taking place on
Thanksgiving, and championship match-ups between schools like Princeton and Yale could draw up to 40,000
fans. The NFL took up the tradition in 1934, when the Detroit Lions (recently arrived in the city and renamed)
played the Chicago Bears at the University of Detroit stadium in front of 26,000 fans. Since then, the Lions
game on Thanksgiving has become an annual event, taking place every year except during the World War II
years (19391944).

2014 ReadWorks, Inc. All rights reserved.


Article: Copyright 2010 History.com. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Questions: Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction

Name:

Date: _______________________

1. When is Thanksgiving held today?


A
B
C
D

the first Thursday of November


the last Thursday of November
the fourth Thursday of November
after any particularly important event

2. This article is structured in a list format. What does the article list?
A
B
C
D

myths that people associate with Thanksgiving and turkeys


reasons why Thanksgiving was first created
ways in which the turkey is important to Thanksgiving
arguments for moving Thanksgiving to a different date

3. Some leaders of the United States have had a major impact on the way Americans
celebrate Thanksgiving today.
What evidence from the text best supports this conclusion?
A Two turkeys pardoned by George W. Bush were flown to Disney World in
Orlando, Florida.
B Franklin Roosevelt decreed that the Thanksgiving holiday should be celebrated
on the fourth Thursday in November every year.
C Benjamin Franklin felt that the turkey would be a better national symbol for the
United States than the bald eagle.
D George Washington issued a proclamation urging Americans of the time to
observe a day of thanksgiving for the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
4. Based on the information in the text, what effect might Abraham Lincolns setting an
annual day of Thanksgiving have had?
A
B
C
D

The turkey became the national bird of the United States.


Holiday shopping was hurt, and continues to suffer.
The decision caused controversy among many Americans.
New traditions grew around the annual Thanksgiving celebration.

5. What is this article mostly about?


A
B
C
D

the role of the turkey in the U.S. and during Thanksgiving


traditions, little-known facts, and myths about Thanksgiving
the way Thanksgiving has affected shopping patterns
U.S. Presidents and Founding Fathers contributions to Thanksgiving

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Questions: Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction

6. Why might the author include the phrase fact or fiction in every heading throughout
the article?
A to suggest that some of the statements in the headings are fact, but some are
fiction
B to convince the reader that all of the statements in the headings are factual
C to force the reader to decide whether the information in the article is factual or
fictional
D to show that the author is not sure if the information in the article is true or not
7. Choose the answer that best completes this sentence.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln designated the last Thursday in November as a
national day of Thanksgiving, _____ in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt decreed that
the holiday should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month.
A
B
C
D

for example
therefore
but
so

8. How has the holiday shopping season affected Thanksgiving traditions?


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Questions: Thanksgiving: Fact or Fiction

9. How have U.S. Presidents contributed to Thanksgiving traditions over time? Use
evidence from the text to support your answer.
______________________________________________________________________
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10. James W. Baker, the Senior Historian at Plimoth Plantation, says that Thanksgiving
is an invented tradition. What evidence from the text supports the idea that todays
Thanksgiving is an invented tradition?
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